Cotton Creations: A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Cotton

April 23, 2024

 

When it comes to fabric for garment making, the options are many. While you may be tempted to choose beautiful viscose or striking sateen for your project, cotton is often the best option for sewing novices.

Cotton is a solid fabric, which means it will not slip and slide while sewing and is less prone to stretching out of shape. When you first start creating clothes, there's a lot to figure out: patterns, directions, what seam grade means, and if you'll ever be able to make a buttonhole or install a zipper. Working with cotton is a great way to boost your confidence without adding the pressure of a demanding fabric.

Reasons to Choose Cotton for Dressmaking

Straightforward to Sew With

Cotton doesn't slip, which makes it easy to sew with. This can be especially beneficial when you're a beginner at dressmaking. You can stitch using either polyester or cotton thread, but if a material is 100% cotton, use only cotton thread. For most cotton materials, a machine needle of size 80 will suffice.

Presses Well

Ironing and pressing play an important part in achieving a well-done dressmaking project. Cotton presses extremely neatly, resulting in a crisp, professional finish. Ideally, you should have a decent steam iron and press/iron as you work through your project.

Cool to Wear

Because cotton is a natural fibre, it will not make you feel hot and sticky like synthetic fibres do.

Easy to Wash

You can just toss it in the washing machine since cotton, especially the lighter, thinner varieties, is a rather sturdy fabric. Although it is best to pre-wash the fabric before sewing with it, substantial shrinkage is unlikely to occur when using premium cotton fabric.

Machine washing the fabric at 30 or 40 degrees can preserve its colour. You may also tumble dry cotton, but some people think that letting the clothes air dry or partially dry will extend their life. In that case, tumble dry and hang out to dry while the pieces are still somewhat damp.

Different Types of Cotton Fabric and What to Do with Them

Cotton Poplin

When shopping for fabric for garment making, cotton poplin is one of the first options to consider. It is a fabric with a tightly closed weave and a ribbed texture that is woven. These characteristics enable the cloth to retain strength while being lightweight. Due to its adaptability and suitability for both formal and casual clothes, poplin is a soft and attractive fabric that has been in high demand for a long time.

What to do with it? Cotton poplin can be used to create a range of clothing items that can be worn throughout the year. Soft, lightweight, and relatively crease-free it's a popular choice for men's shirts as well as for women's dressmaking, and sportswear.

Cotton Lawn

This is a type of lightweight cotton made with very fine threads. It has the characteristics of floating and moving smoothly while maintaining some shape. It feels silk and smooth and is easy to iron.

What to do with it? Cotton laws are a good material choice for making tops, blouses, and certain dresses. Depending on your project, you may need to line it because it can be slightly see-through.

Cotton Voile and Cotton Batiste

Batiste and voile fabrics are generally used to make lightweight garments. Because they are both thin, semi-sheer cotton fabrics, they need to be lined or layered when making loose clothing.

What to do with it? They are most suited for flowing garments such as skirts as they are breathable without much structure. Sewers use stay stitching because the weave of semi-sheer materials is loose.

Double Gauze

This is a lightweight, loosely woven fabric composed of two independent layers of extremely fine cloth sewed together to form one. It has a soft feel and tends to become even fluffier with time as it softens with each wash.

What to do with it? Double gauze is ideal for making children's clothing, including shirts, blouses, and some dresses. Due to its loose weave, it frays more than other cottons, therefore overlock the seam margins or use a French seam finish.

Cotton Flannel

Cotton flannel is considered a medium-weight cotton fabric. It has a brushed surface and feels fluffy and smooth.

What to do with it? This fabric is a good option for tops, shirts, dresses and soft PJ bottoms. It can also be used as the inner for a coat or jacket!

Cotton Twill

A fabric with very densely woven in a way that gives it a diagonal pattern/texture on its surface. They feel thicker and heavier, making them more resilient and able to maintain their shape and structural integrity. Sateen, drill and gaberdine are fabrics with similar qualities.

They may contain spandex or elastane, which allows for some elasticity.

What to do with it? This fabric is best suited for pants, jackets, coats, and certain skirts.

Chambray

The term "chambray" describes the material's weaving technique, which is a straightforward weave using white thread and a different colour of thread (often blue). This gives the fabric a two-tone appearance that often looks like denim.

This fabric, which is also referred to as shot cotton and yarn-dyed cotton, can incorporate linen into its composition to give it more body and structure.

What to do with it? Chambray is a versatile material that can be used to make a range of garments, ranging from blouses, shirts, and dresses to summer pants, jumpsuits, and skirts.

Tips for Sewing with Cotton

Getting the Fabric Ready

Wash and iron the cotton material before sewing with it. This will not only remove starch or dirt from the material but will also ensure it doesn't shrink after the project is done.

Cutting the Fabric

Make sure the fabric is laid out flat and free of wrinkles and creases. Using fabric scissors, cut the cloth's grain along the design lines. After that, pin the pattern pieces in place. To mark any notches or guidelines, use a tracing wheel or tailor's chalk.

Sewing the Fabric

In your sewing machine, insert the appropriate needle and thread for cotton cloth. Check the tension and stitch length on a scrap of fabric before starting your project. Using the seam allowance called for in the sewing pattern, begin by sewing along the pattern lines.

Finishing

Use a serger or zigzag stitch to finish the seams to avoid fraying. A double-fold or blind hem can also be sown for a beautiful finish on clothing or projects for the home.

 

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